I’m going to tell you what freedom is not. Freedom is not having burdens or responsibilities. It’s not having a job you must go to. It’s not having a girlfriend who is expecting you to call, or having a standing date with friends where your absence must be explained with an elaborate excuse. It is not having to give some type of prolonged notice to terminate a contract or job. It is not owning so many possessions that you need a storage unit. It is not having a wallet full of so many cards that your life turns upside down when you lose it.
I’m reminded of my freedom when I’m on a bus to another city. All my possessions, my summer and winter clothes, my dress clothes and two extra pairs of shoes, are in the undercarriage riding along with me. No one knows where I am and no one cares. I’m going to a city I’ve never seen before as a complete stranger, with no obligations to see anything or visit anyone. I have no worries, no bills, and no tasks. I’m reclining on an old chair, but I might as well be floating above the street, with no string wrapped around my neck pulling me back to where I was. I could die on the autostrada, in between villages whose names I don’t know and which are not announced with pleasant signs, and it would take several days for anyone who knows me to find out. Or my bags could go missing and within a couple weeks I could easily have the contents replaced. This is freedom.
I wouldn’t trade these bus rides, of having to answer to no one, for all the money in the world or for all the women in the world. I lay back, close my eyes, and let my thoughts and dreams go wherever they want, with no stress or anxiety disturbing them. There is no rush and there is no hurry. I am free. The whole world can demand something of me and I can laugh them off. My own government can take all my money from my bank accounts but they can’t find me on this bus.
Maybe I will stay a while in my destination or maybe I won’t. Maybe I will invent a new identity with the locals I meet or maybe I’ll be me. Maybe I will get laid or maybe I will work. Maybe I will take a tram or maybe I will walk. I was not free when I lived beyond my means, when I depended on the income that the man would grace me with every two Fridays. But I started to spend less than my earnings, and over the course of years it has given me my freedom. The only person I have to answer to is myself. I can vanish tomorrow, and nothing will happen. If I never check my email, never answer my phone, if I just disappear—I’ll do just fine. If you can’t simply close your eyes, and say goodbye to the world, you are not free.